Here we go again! Snow with an ice chaser. Even though we won’t need to measure this storm with a yardstick, it is likely to restrict outdoor activities for at least a day or two. Children will be out of school and parents are bound to go a little nuts trying to keep the young ones entertained.
But what about your pets?
I have four short-legged, long-haired dogs and one cat. Well, the cat is no problem because in all honesty, I don’t think he even notices the weather — nothing interrupts his sleep!
However, for my 4 dogs who are used to being able to go out whenever they want to run around in the backyard, nasty weather presents many problems. During the last storm, they did not go outside for days, so we had potty pads all over the floor near the back door. Thankfully, they are good about using them.
We also blocked off our covered deck steps leading to the yard so they could use the deck for a bathroom while catching a little fresh air. Once the worst of the storm was over, we let them out to run around in the yard, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately, when they came inside their legs and stomachs (also long-haired) were covered with ice balls the size of golf balls!
Now I had to get them off of 16 legs and 4 bellies before they caused hypothermia. I discovered that a bristle brush and strong fingers worked best to get the ice balls off, followed by a hair dryer.
Keeping pets entertained when weather keeps them inside
Basically, to keep them from going out in the snow again and having to remove the snow balls, we were diligent about finding things to distract them! Dogs do not get coloring books or making things out of PlayDough. This is a perfect time to go through all the dog toys and, of course, they’ll want to help.
We found toys they’d forgotten they had. We hid the ones they normally play with and replaced them with ones that were basically “new” to them. Then — down on the floor for play time — with lots of throwing the toy, retrieving it or tug of war with a sister or brother, which then led to group play time with each other!
We also made a new batch of Yoshi’s Yummies homemade dehydrated chicken treats for dogs. They love the smell of the chicken cooking and getting fresh ones when they are done — sort of like getting the first cookies out of the oven when they are done cooking! They love the fresh treats and all four sit at my feet waiting for me to take pity and dole them out.
Treat balls are also great entertainment for dogs. A treat ball is a treat-dispensing toy that entertains your dog for hours. It has holes where you can insert treats then bounce them on the floor or roll them around while the dog tries to get the ball to extract the treat.
This takes time and tends to give them lots of exercise in the process. It’s pretty entertaining for you too – it can be quite humorous.
If you have a floor that is sort of waterproof, this is lots of fun too — Make some snow balls and bring them onto the waterproof floor and let the dogs play with them. Takes a while for them to melt, but they enjoy the game of try to get the ball and grasp it in the mouth. It’s sort of like playing kitchen floor hockey. And if it’s not snow that’s causing your dog to have cabin fever, modify this activity by substituting ice cubes. They work great too.
When in doubt, think like a dog!
Ok, so dogs can’t enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate when the wind chill is -10, but they do enjoy a nice snuggle in front of the fireplace while you enjoy the hot chocolate. Surprise them with a new bully stick to chew on or a nibble from the dehydrated chicken jerky.
And if you haven’t already done so, next time you’re out — stock up on some new toys and treats your pet has not tasted before so you will be prepared to entertain your pet next time when the weather prohibits them from going outside!
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.